View Full Version : How to Fake It (and other things my Mother taught me) (Mature Themes)

August 29th, 2013, 02:27 PM

“And after that, you just have to squeeze your eyes up, real tight, and just wait until its over!” Liv finishes the sentence with a grin, and a “Voila!” look on her face.

I swear to God, of all the things a fourteen year old girl needs to know, this really is not one of them. Especially not from your mother.

Liv is teaching me how to fake an orgasm today, her absurdly inappropriate reaction to me asking her if I could start taking birth control because I heard it stops your periods hurting so much. This is another creepy lesson that I can add to my list of gems of advice my mother dearest has given me, along with how to ride the train without paying and where to shoplift tinned tomatoes.

Now I know what you’re thinking, that’s not normal. Right? Well pat yourself on the back, because you’re right. We’re not normal. My family is so far from normal we can’t even spell it. Not that I’ve ever learned to read or write, that’s never been to high on Liv’s list of priorities for me.

My mother Liv is a criminal. And that’s not just me saying it, that’s the actual law. She’s got a long line of convictions that range from mild verbal abuse of bus drivers all the way up to aggressive assault and burglary. She’s not shy about it either. Mother thinks she’s just enlightened. “Take what you need” is her motto. Recons it’s ‘society’ that’s fooled us all into submission, and that if more people saw life the way she did then mankind would be a lot better off. She doesn’t believe in money, belonging to anyone, having a job or paying your taxes. Or the government. If she had it her way we’d all be living in communes of tree-houses and raising our own chickens.

She had me at sixteen, which is young nowadays but was even worse back then. At first she thought I would be her ticket into the easy-breezy UK benefits system, but whatever drugs she was taking at the time obviously did their job because she forgot to register me. I was born on the floor of a one bed squat in Brixton, making me the seventh member of their ‘collective’, and according to official records, I don’t legally exist. Thanks, Crystal Meth.

This makes it pretty hard to get anywhere in life. I’ve never been to school, I can’t get a passport or any treatment from a Doctor. Everything you ever need to do in life that involves paperwork, national insurance numbers or a record of my birth is out. I’ll never be able to get a job, give blood, get married or have any registered kids of my own for that matter. I am a nothing. A void. My name is Chylah, although that’s true only unofficially. It’s really just a word that belongs to other people. Sometimes I can’t figure out if the name really refers to me, since there‘s no actual record of that being true.

But everyone calls me Chai for short.


Today we’re going ‘shopping’ which, you’ve guessed it, means stealing food and toiletries from the local corner shop. Mother justifies stealing as ‘liberating’ essential products from the mass, multi-national corporations that are ruining the rainforests, and insists this doesn’t hurt anyone.

“They have a yearly quota for missing stock anyway!” she chips cheerfully at me as we slip through the door. “They actually expect people to steal stuff.”

Although looking at Mr Cooke, owner of Cooke and Sons independent corner shop, I’m not sure this excuse really works.

Nevertheless, a whole chicken gets stuffed into my rucksack and Liv buys a token pack of gum while slipping a handful of counter chocolate bars into her pocket.

When we get the pilfered produce home, Liv tells me to go get the oven on. Today is a Thursday, which means it’s my turn to cook dinner for the house. There are five of us in total who live here permanently, and others who come and go, so there can be up to twenty people under this roof sometimes. The house is an abandoned two-up two-down, cluttered with old sleeping bags and the carpet worn down so much that in patches it's completely bare. Inside, it's always dark, partly because of all the dust and partly because the electricity is usually cut off. No-one tends to clean unless they're on a manic one, and apparently we've all just agreed to disagree and live in it.

Mother and I share the back bedroom with one other woman, a red haired hippy in her twenties called Jenny. Although Jenny is her ‘Given’ name. She’s adamant that the Earth has chosen a different name for her, and insists that everyone call her Spring.

I find it difficult to empathise with someone who has a given name. I have only this fictional one.

Anyway, Spring is out of her mind today, curled up in the corner of the kitchen on an old armchair, pulling at the threadbare cover making the hole bigger and herself madder. I used to think this was very concerning as a kid, and would try to cheer her up by singing. But this rarely helped, and I’m not sure it would do any good today either. Spring’s taking a dangerous mix of prescription uppers and street downers. Not smart. As I got older, I realised that this state is completely self-inflicted and so now I sing out of tune to annoy her a little bit. Although its hit and miss of she even notices me walking around.

Today is a hit day.

“Hello, Chai.” She soothes at me, blearily, as I get to the kitchen. “Would you be a dear and pass me over the gin?”

I oblige, trying carefully to keep the bottle at arms length. The stuff smells like fear. How anyone manages to actually swallow it is utterly beyond me. Although apparently the expensive stuff is nicer, this one is store brand with blue stripes down the front, and by law has to label itself “Juniper Flavoured Drinking Spirit”. Mother has something against nicking the premium stuff. That’s her line, apparently.

As the oven warms up I start to focus on preparing the stolen chicken. I love cooking, its one of the most soothing things I know how to do. I especially like the long recipes, with lots of stages. It keeps me busy in the kitchen and no-ones allowed to disturb me whilst I’m preparing a meal for them. Lovely.

I want to take my jumper off because it’s hot, and then I remember my scrawny shoulders. I hate being gangly, it’s embarrassing. It’s not enough my hair is stringy and thin, I also get this gawky frame to drag about with me. My chest is flat, I’m ashen skinned and could be described as “willowy” if someone was being kind.

Once the buzzer goes my time is up, and dinners ready. We settle down on the dining room floor, or what would be the dining room if this were an actual house and not ours. There are four makeshift beds in the corners for travellers or visitors, and we shift them around to fit all five of us on the floor to eat.


“So, good day everyone?” Graeme asks the collective.

He’s been out all day today and smells woody and looks grubby. Grubbier than usual. He peers around the table waiting for one of us to answer him.

Graeme’s so funny. He seems to think that if he acts like normal then everything will just be normal. Graeme and Sarah live in the second bedroom, across the hall from me, Liv and Spring. They’ve been with us for three years now, first came Graeme and then Sarah, and now it wouldn’t be ‘home’ without them.

Graeme’s a brick layer, officially, but that’s about as true as my name. He’s the only person here who really knows anything about me, I can actually talk to him sometimes. Sarah too, when she’s awake, although that’s rare. Usually she has The Trouble, and just stays in their room whimpering to herself and looking at pictures of some kid she doesn’t know anymore.

Mum tries to pull her out of this. She gets The Trouble too, but in different ways. Her and Sarah are best friends and enemies all at once and love each other only slightly more than they hate each other. I don’t really care, as long as mother doesn’t do anything to mess things up and send Graeme away then that’s just fine by me.

“My day was lovely, thanks!” Spring answers Graeme first. “I was gardening and painted the snails with my purple nail varnish before relocating them! Now we can tell which one of our lovely little friends comes back to us. That’ll be nice, huh Chai?”

She tickles me under the chin as though I’m five. I hate that.

“Why don’t you just kill them?” I ask her bluntly.

Liv coughs, her way of reminding me to be nicer to Spring.

“Oh dear, you wouldn’t really kill a living thing would you?” Spring simpers, her green eyes widened at me.

She looks like she may cry, so I figure I’ll let her live her ridiculous floaty dreams today and nod. Mumble something about life being precious and of course I was joking.

“Actually…” Sarah jerks into action. I think she feels the same way about Spring as I do. “Nail varnish is toxic. It’ll probably seep through their shells, corrode them, and they’ll die a long, slow death anyway.”

Nice one, Sarah. I have to stop myself giggling. Sarah has no patience for Spring. She’s aggressive and catty. I actually love her. She’s not brushed her blonde hair for two years now and sometimes she lets me twist it into thick dreadlocks. Though she keeps a few strands free, for threading gemstone beads onto. She has a nose piercing and wears those earrings that dangle all the way down to her shoulders, which makes her look like a gypsy.

“Well, so long as the snails are away from the vegetables then everyone’s a winner!” Graeme interrupts, trying to keep the peace.

He’s set on us growing our own vegetables, which Liv agrees with strongly. They have this problem with store ‘bought’ produce. They seem to think the government will use it to poison us one day and their shared dream is to be completely self sufficient and provide all our own food from the garden. Sarah pretends to agree but secretly tells me this is the worst idea she’s ever heard. Chicken shit stinks.

“I had to take the train into town to renew my benefit claim.” Liv tells us. “Bastards keep trying to con me out of them. Saying I’m fit to work. But obviously I can’t, I mean who would look after Chai?”

“I don’t know why you don’t just register her, Liv.” Sarah asks mum. “Then you’d get support for her, too.”

Although the prospect of extra money obviously appeals greatly to my mother, even though she doesn’t agree with the concept of currency, we all know where this conversation is going.

“No, I can’t. It’s too late now…” Liv laments. “I’d be in too much trouble, keeping her off grid for so long. It’s considered fraud and I’d go to jail, and then who knows what’ll happen to her? And anyway, they'd take one look at me and where we live and take her away into foster care.”

She strokes my long hair and tucks a chestnutbrown strand behind my ear. I get it, I wouldn’t want her to register me now. I can’t imagine how much worse my life would be if she wasn’t here. It’s not even worth thinking about.

“I’ll just keep telling them I have a mental illness.”

Liv says this as though it’s the most normal thing in the world, and everyone nods at her. This is an argument they’ve had with her too many times already. They aren’t going to win. I am not going to exist.


The next day Liv takes me into town to beg. We have to be pretty careful about where we go, not be seen in the same places too many times, or someone will report me as out of school. Funny thing is I’d love to go to school, but you can’t have it both ways and despite everything I’d rather stay with Liv, so that’s that.

We’re catching the train, which involves an almost military operation of avoiding the guard. We can’t pay for tickets, so whenever someone enters the carriage who looks like he may charge us we have to slide out of our seats and leg it down to the end. Sometimes we just lock ourselves in the bathroom and sit there on the damp floor waiting for our destination to be called over the speakers. I’m not fond of sitting in urine, but Liv’s not fond of paying for tickets and so we hide.

If we’re caught, I have to cry. Liv pretends I’m very sick, so of course as a mother her first instinct was to get me on the train and straight down to the hospital, and wouldn’t you do the same if it was your child, sir? We get fined maybe one time out of ten, so we’re doing OK apparently.

I’m wearing the t-shirt with the yellow duck on it we ‘liberated’ from Topshop the other week. This doesn’t quite sit right with me. I prefer wearing hand-me-downs because at least someone paid for it sometime, but Yellow Duck was the cleanest thing I had so I pulled it on this morning. I have to make sure I recommend Topshop to someone today. That’s my rule. I have to say the word ‘Topshop’ in public to someone, tell them how great they are, and the universe will forgive me. Free advertising, see? It’s almost like they’re stealing from me!

Today we make it, no charge, and step onto the busy high street where Liv leaves me to it. I stand on the road and try to look as sad and hungry as I can which you’d think is humiliating and yes, yes it is. But the collective are depending on the cash so I try to well my eyes up with fake tears as best I can. Borrowed sorrow.

The kids are the money makers. Adults are hardened, most of them, and far too busy to give a damn about me and my sorrow. But the kids look at me and the guilt goes right to their little guts. They pull on the arm of their adult and, trying to maintain a faith in humanity in their children, the parent gives them a coin to come and press into my hand. Or a note. Notes are better.

After a morning on the beat Liv takes me to our café, a greasy spoon where cups of tea cost 30p, and if we can’t guilt them into giving them to us for free mother buys us one each. And there we sit, making fun of peoples suits and day jobs, feeling liberated that we don’t have to conform like they do. Or at least Liv feels that. I don’t know what it would be like to have a job, or much of a schedule. I imagine it feels sort of clean.

“Hey cutie, what’s your name?” the skinny waitress asks me.

“It’s Chylah, apparently. But that’s my Given name. My Chosen name is Gerald.”

Nah, I don’t really say that. That would have been cool though.

“It’s Chai.” That’s not me answering, Liv’s chimed in for me.

“Well Chai, careful with that sugar.” The waitress warns me as I heap a third spoon into my cup. “All your teeth will fall out!”

I secretly think that may be a good thing. My teeth are crooked anyway and at least that may help with the Notes.

“Thanks, but I’m trying to look like the duck.” I answer. A long shot but I just about wiggle it in there. “You know, from my top. Yellow Duck has no teeth. Cool shirt, huh? I got it from Topshop.”

Job done. The waitress looks confused but shrugs me off and goes back to folding napkins. Liv gives me her ‘what-was-that?’ look, the one she throws me when she thinks I’m being weird. I haven’t told her about my deal with the universe. She wouldn’t get it. She’d say I was becoming indoctrinated and we‘d have to go on another solstice pilgrimage. And screw that, I’ve eaten enough cold lentils this month.


We’re meant to be out again today but it’s one of those mornings where Liv is ‘doing a sad’. I call this The Trouble. A dark cloud comes and hangs over her, and she stops being able to move or smile or even eat until it’s passed. Like a bubble has popped inside of her leaving only a hollow void.

I know better than to try and pull her out of this, it’s a waste of my time. And anyway, Graeme usually tries to distract me before he thinks I notice. Sometimes I burst in on her where she’s tried to lock herself in the bathroom. I just jump through, look her right in her glazed eyes and ask her something that could catch her off guard like “Do you think cave-men wore glasses?” and she has to spring into action and do some actual parenting.

This is a problem for Liv. When she has The Trouble she would much rather just stay limp and alone and down Juniper Flavoured Drinking Spirit. But she tries to hide it from me, the darkness, and locks me out when she can. So usually I just have to let her wallow until she comes out of it or Sarah threatens to take me back to Grandma’s, whichever comes first.

Today though, Graeme’s home, which means I might be able to wheedle my way into going to work with him for the day, so I forget to check on her. He goes upstairs and hears her sniffling before coming quickly down and rushing me out the door quicker than you can say ‘manic depression’. And there we are, thick as thieves (he’s thick, I’m the thief) trundling down the road towards the job centre.

Looking for a job is Graeme’s job, and he’s excellent at it.

“The trick is,” He growls under his breath at me. “Is to make the Job Lot think you’re just well unlucky. Get the interviews, act excited and then cock it up on the day.”

Graeme’s the perfect mix of strong and subtle. When he gets turned down, he rolls up to the job centre looking embarrassed and downtrodden, shrugs his hefty shoulders and pretends at pretending not to be upset. And they buy it, and why would they want to kick a man when he’s down? Seems genuine enough, so they sign off his paper and it’s off to the park with us.

Graeme buys me a massive ice cream with all the sprinkles on top. Liv would disapprove of the E-numbers but I wont tell if he wont. He winks at me, it’s our little secret, and no-one but the two of us are allowed into lie-club. Graeme rolls a cigarette and ignores people scowling at him as he smokes all over their new suits and small children.

“Aint a no smoking sign I can see anywhere!” He calls to me. But he’s not talking to me, he’s directing it at the elderly women muttering into their designer coffees.

I hear them whisper something about the lower classes and agree with Graeme when he tells me the upper class have no class. Only us common people really know how to use their manners. It’s the very meaning of the phrase Common Decency. Common people know how to be decent. I feel superior for a second before I realise my hair is held up with a bread tie and quickly revert back to being me again.

Graeme catches me shrugging and asks me what's wrong, so I tell him about my scrawny shoulders and frizzy hair.

“You’re kidding, right?” Graeme chuckles at me when I tell him about my gaunt-ness. “You’re precious, kid. Like a young Audrey Hepburn! Now stop talking that way about my Chai, eh?”

I don’t know who Audrey is, but whoever she is she’s made me smile and Graeme refuses to hear anymore of my whining. When we get home we find Spring on the wall at the front of the house carving stones into heart shapes with my favourite kitchen knife.

“I’m going to paint the heart shaped stones pretty colours and leave them around town for people to find!” she gushes at me. “Won’t that make their day?”

“Yeah, sure.” I answer her, sarcastically. “And hey, don’t worry about my knife. I got bored of using a sharp one anyway. Just keep carving, blunt crockery gives me a challenge after all. In fact sod it, why don‘t I just use my bare hands to prep the veg? Would that make you happy, Spring?”

This goes way over her head but Graeme has to turn a snort into a cough pretty quick. Sure, he likes Spring, but he loves Sarah and the two of them couldn’t be any more different. We leave her and her joy-stones in the garden and the musty smell of the living room waves over us as we duck inside.

Oh shit. Does this seriously have to happen to me today? You’ve got to be kidding. As my eyes adjust to the dim light (we don’t believe in opening the curtains, the TV licensing man would see in) I clap eyes on the last thing I wanted to see today, sat there right in the middle of the living room.

It appears we have a visitor.

September 26th, 2013, 04:42 PM
Pretty good so far. If the orgasm lesson can be moved down a bit it would help. The rest seems tame, compared to that starter. It made me expect a whole lot more sexual overtones.

I do want to know...Who is the visitor! Finish it please!

September 27th, 2013, 02:09 AM
Hey, thanks! That just made my day.

I actually have the next 6 chapters up on Jottify.com which is another great site for writers, and has more of an interaction element to it. I'm planning on publishing it as an E-book, and I have finished the whole thing, just trying to sort out a cheap editor at the moment!

Great to hear your feedback, thanks for taking the time to read through :-)

November 23rd, 2013, 05:06 PM
Hey, I really like your writing style. It flows through nicely and as a young adult book these days, the content hooks you. :) I'd love to read more :P

December 6th, 2013, 01:01 PM
Thanks! I'm uploading a chapter a week to Jottify. Your comment made my day, thank you.

Olivia Veranos
December 8th, 2013, 05:31 AM
Your characters feel very real to me, like I might run into any of them on the street. I love Chai's narration, she comes off as very clever and cynical (understandably so). I think a lot of people will relate to her because she has a parent who is there, but doesn't really act like a parent. I'd like to know about her dad. The only criticism I might have is that it could use some description of where the story takes place. Over all it was great, I can't wait to hear more, and learn who this visitor is!

December 10th, 2013, 08:02 AM
The story is fresh. I love the theme to it. Yea, I want to know this visitor?!!?